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ColdFusion: Article

Consuming Amazon.com E-Commerce

An overview

Searching the Store
Now you want to search the Amazon.com store. The operation that you want to perform on the store is ItemSearch. These are some ItemSearch-specific parameters:

  • SearchIndex: The search index specifies the name of the Amazon.com store index that you are searching. Available indexes are locale specific. Some common ones are Books, Music, DVD, and Software. A complete list is available in the Amazon.com DVD. If you set this value to blended, all indexes will be searched. This is required.
  • Keywords: The keyword search will compare your search term against various product fields, including (but not limited to) title, author, artist, and description.
  • BrowseNode: The browsenode parameter is used to narrow your search to a specific category of products in the Amazon.com catalog. You can think of browse nodes as subcategories within each SearchIndex. For example, to find ColdFusion books, you would probably search in Professional & Technical. This is an optional attribute.
  • Availability: This is an optional parameter that specifies that you want to only search for items that are available. If specified, you want to give it the value of Available.
  • Title: The title parameter is optional and used to search for a specific title. In addition to the title, you can search using Author, Publisher, Artist, Actor, Director, Manufacturer, MusicLabel, Brand, and a whole slew of others. Check the documentation for the complete list.
  • MinimumPrice: The minimum price is used to specify a price range. Items that are priced lower than this value will not be returned. Its parallel MaximumPrice can be used to specify an upper limit, where items with prices higher than this value will not be returned. If either is left out, there is no lower or upper limit, respectively.
  • Condition: The condition parameter is used to filter the list using the specified value. Valid values are All, New, Used, Refurbished, or Collectible.
  • Sort: Specifies the sort order of the result, similar to the "Order By" clause in SQL. Its values are dependent upon the locale; in the U.S. you can sort using these values: daterank, relevancerank, pricerank, -titlerank, inverse-pricerank, and salesrank. The minus uses a descending sort, where applicable.
  • ItemPage: ItemPage is used to paginate the results. The search will return only 10 results. You can use ItemPage to specify which page of search results you want. The default is to return the top 10 results. But, if you specify two, you'll get results 11-20; if you specify 100, you'll get results 100-110, and so on.
  • ResponseGroup: The ResponseGroup parameter is intended to provide greater flexibility on the type of data that is returned. In previous versions of Web services, you could only retrieve data in two formats: light (some data) or heavy (all data). Response Groups are designed to give you much flexibility in what is returned. If you wanted to perform a search that only returned image data and the title, then response groups are for you.
Okay, you're digesting a lot of information. Let's see some code:

<cfhttp url="http://webservices.amazon.com/onca/xml?Service=AWSECommerceService
&SearchIndex=Books&Keywords=ColdFusion&Author=Houser" method="get">

<cfdump var="#XMLParse(cfhttp.FileContent)#">

To figure out what's going on, you'll need to dissect the URL. You know the service value is constant. The subscriptionID was provided by Amazon.com (in this case, the value is stored in the variables scope). The operation is ItemSearch. The SearchIndex is Books, which means we are searching the Amazon book catalog. The keyword that the code searches for is ColdFusion. The author is Houser (me). The final line of the code dumps the results of our query string. Since cfhttp returns a string, before dumping, the XMLParse function is used. It makes the dump look nicer. After all the preparation, the retrieval is really that simple. You can easily make a form to allow the user to enter parameters as necessary.

Retrieving One Item with ItemLookup
You're going to process the search results and your user will want to get more details on an item. You can get them using an ItemLookup. These are some common parameters:

  • ItemId: It specifies the product ID of the value you want to look up. If you want to retrieve multiple IDs, you can do so by adding a comma-separated list of the products you want to return. Most likely you'll use an ASIN number (Amazon's internal ID) to get information on the specific product, but other options are available such as SKU and UPC.
  • IdType: This parameter is used to specify which type of value is contained in the ItemId parameter. The default value is ASIN, but you can also specify SKU, UPC, or EAN.
  • SearchIndex: It specifies which amazon.com store you are searching for your item in. If you use the ASIN, this is ignored. If you are performing an alternate search, this is required. It operates the same way as SearchIndex does for the ItemSearch.
  • ResponseGroups: Response groups here act the same way that response groups do in an ItemSearch. In the following example, I actually used a simple response group to retrieve more data than just title and author.
<cfhttp url="http://webservices.amazon.com/onca/xml?Service=AWSECommerceService
&ItemId=0072132388&ResponseGroup=Request,Large" method="get">

<cfdump var="#XMLParse(cfhttp.FileContent)#">

You should already be familiar with the Service and SubscriptionId. The operation is ItemLookup to retrieve an item. The ItemId contains the ASIN of the value to retrieve. The ResponseGroup is set to large, which returns a multitude of information about the product including image locations, customer reviews, lists that include the book, price, and just about anything you'd want to know about the book.

Where to Go from Here
I've showed you how to get and receive data from the Amazon.com E-commerce interface using ColdFusion. Unfortunately, due to space constraints, there is barely time to scratch the surface of the full scope of functionality. You can examine Amazon.com's documentation, located at Documentation. To give you an idea of the full breadth of the service suite, the PDF document is over 450 pages long. You may also look at the Amazon Web service blog at http://aws.typepad.com/ or talk with other users at the discussion forum (http://forums.prospero.com/am-assocdevxml).

This article didn't discuss what to do once you get the XML data returned. You may want to examine ColdFusion's XML handling, so you can actually do something with the data once you have it. You might start with the July 2005 issue of CFDJ (Vol. 7, issue 7); most of the articles in that issue focused on XML, including an XML prep in this column. Neat things can be done with XSL and the Web service suite.

Finally, on a personal note, I've officially entered the world of blogging (thanks Ray). Check out my personal site at www.jeffryhouser.com for my ramblings on ColdFusion, business, and a spattering of random thoughts. Until next time!

More Stories By Jeffry Houser

Jeffry is a technical entrepreneur with over 10 years of making the web work for you. Lately Jeffry has been cooped up in his cave building the first in a line of easy to use interface components for Flex Developers at www.flextras.com . He has a Computer Science degree from the days before business met the Internet and owns DotComIt, an Adobe Solutions Partner specializing in Rich Internet Applications. Jeffry is an Adobe Community Expert and produces The Flex Show, a podcast that includes expert interviews and screencast tutorials. Jeffry is also co-manager of the Hartford CT Adobe User Group, author of three ColdFusion books and over 30 articles, and has spoken at various events all over the US. In his spare time he is a musician, old school adventure game aficionado, and recording engineer. He also owns a Wii. You can read his blog at www.jeffryhouser.com, check out his podcast at www.theflexshow.com or check out his company at www.dot-com-it.com.

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